North Carolina’s Yoe Pack Roaring Avant-Garde Black Metal On Disorienting New EP

Listening to To Exist Among Wolves — a new EP of riveting avant-garde black metal from an Asheville, North Carolina-based project going by Yoe — feels like getting a glimpse of the tapestry of some cosmic mystery whose secrets have somehow become buried in the Appalachians.

The results of this creation feel simultaneously mesmerizing and terrifying. Grandeur overlays the music — especially at moments like the particularly dramatic guitar dynamics in latter parts of its journey — but the sounds feel fueled by fiery rage. One of the release’s tags on Bandcamp is “destroy white supremacy,” connecting the mostly wordless music to anger over the persistence of certain real-world horrors. There’s a lot of raw power here, and it’s compelling — but it’s also starkly fierce and soaked with menace, like a rag drenched in gasoline laying just a few feet away from a fire.

According to creatively listed Bandcamp credits (the names are backwards on the page), this record features the talents of Thom Nguyen on the drums, Patrick Shiroishi handling guitar and vocals, and Tashi Dorji on (another) guitar. All three of the folks involved in this venture have been involved in an array of other projects, and here, their expertise underpins a single track that features just over 20 minutes of music and sounds (at least partly) improvised.

After a straightforward raw black metal opening featuring a meditatively inclined but still rather brisk pace, the rhythms begin to contort about two and a half minutes in, and going on from there, the unsettling haze essentially never lets up save for a brief slowdown leading up to the end.

The sound is unmistakably grimy — there’s enough feedback in the abrasive mix to create a feeling of some kind of menacing cloud of filth — but the music’s components also feel individually striking, and the tones themselves feel earthy and full. Following any particular thread feels like stumbling down some overgrown woodland path in the dark. The cover art, which (besides a logo) features an apparently post-nightfall image of ominously nondescript woods, rather aptly captures the vibe. That kind of correlation is always a great touch.

The music stays consistently thick, like the woodsy brambles suggested by the wildly branching logo, and the tension stays high. Still, thanks to the overarching persistence, the music feels almost mystical, like some backwoods witchcraft bringing down fire from above. Overall, the sounds seem to reflect a kind of wrenching anguish. With its staggeringly intricate and constantly moving performances, the music feels like getting metaphysically torn apart over and over, with tension essentially endlessly dragged out. It’s a jarring exploration.

5/5 Stars

Listen to To Exist Among Wolves by Yoe below!